I was told, when I first arrived in Canada, that Canadians are not particularly decisive, that they would be reluctant to bet on which way the elevator was moving even if they had two choices.
It is a country, so I was informed, of "the bland leading the bland." And no less than media guru Marshall McLuhan declared that "the Canadian beaver is an apt symbol of our dammed-up creativity."
The recent row concerning whether or not Canadians should think about when life begins leads me to think that the biblical version of the aforementioned epigram is more pertinent: "the blind leading the blind."
There is merit, apparently, in not being able to see, for what one might see could be fearful and troubling.
Stephen Woodworth is a member of Parliament (MP) for Kitchener, Ontario. In spring 2012, he introduced a motion in the House of Commons to deliberate on the subject of when human life begins. The motion was soundly defeated 203 to 91. All members of the New Democratic Party (NDP, more truthfully described as "No Deliberations, Please") voted against it (not much evidence of "choice" here).
It would seem that such a resounding vote in favor of not thinking would have pleased non-thinkers. However, such was not the case.
The editor of one newspaper referred to the minority vote as "alarming to people who respect a woman’s right to full autonomy over her own body." Parenthetically, perhaps there should be a discussion on what constitutes "full autonomy." Does it include never aging, never getting sick and never dying? Is full autonomy available for men? And how might they acquire it? Or is "full autonomy" simply an ideological illusion? Better not think about that, either. Who wants to part with a cherished illusion?
A journalist found Woodworth’s motion incomprehensible and concluded that he must be "operating in a time warp." Apparently, the time for thinking has passed its expiration date. Another writer charged that MP Woodworth, a Catholic, was "forcing his moral beliefs on the Canadian public."
Presumably, the act of thinking is an idiosyncratically Catholic activity. It is at least theoretically possible for a non-Catholic to engage in thinking.
Rona Ambrose, the minister of Canada’s Status of Women, had the audacity to support the motion. Her justification for such an allegedly outlandish act was that she was concerned about the disproportionate number of females who are aborted precisely because they are females. Nonetheless, there was a flurry of demands for her resignation. The NDP accused her of betraying women. MP Libby Davies called Ambrose’s vote "shocking." Others called for the abolition of the Status of Women post.
It may seem odd that a woman who has a political responsibility to look after the welfare of women should lose her job because she is looking out after the welfare of women. What would be more "sexist" than aborting someone simply because she is female?
But in a world where thinking is suppressed, contradictions go unnoticed. Ambrose is not supposed to be concerned about real women, but ideological fantasies.
Thinking, of course, is the archenemy of ignorance. And if ignorance is bliss, then thinking is also an enemy of bliss. A woman has a "right" to abortion. But does she have a right to think? Does "bliss" rest on a secure foundation if thinking is prohibited?
Thinking is such a natural human activity that it would seem impossible to suppress it for any significant length of time so that people could maintain a blissful life while attending to their daily functions. Sooner or later, one may perchance open a book and discover that "Thou Shall Not Think" is not a commandment, but "Thou Shall Not Kill" is. What happens then?
The ancient Pythagoreans tried to prevent irrational numbers from coming out of "concealment." They even put death curses on those who revealed the irrationality of the square root of 2. Their efforts, naturally, were futile. They were not able to stop the advance of mathematics.
Abortion has many enemies: the unwanted baby, the pro-life movement, the Catholic Church, science — and thinking. Its only chance of continuing unabated is for its advocates to insist on an illusion ("total autonomy") and prohibit all thinking (since thinking does have a way of shattering illusions).
Is the continuation of abortion inevitable?
Let us return to that exceptional Canadian who was most fond of thinking, Marshall McLuhan, who was also staunchly pro-life: "There is absolutely no inevitability as long as there is a willingness to contemplate what is happening." MP Woodworth wants people to contemplate what is happening so that abortion becomes less inevitable. But thinking is too clear-eyed a witness to the crime.
After Macbeth slaughtered King Duncan, he returned to his wife, who advised that "these deeds must not be thought/After these ways; so, it will make us mad" (Act II, Scene 2).
Indeed, if one thinks too much about killing, then one might truly go mad. Thus, thinking must also be killed.
No civilization was ever built on an illusion. Thinking distinguishes reality from illusion. And though, as T.S. Eliot has warned, "Humankind can bear very little reality," authentic thinking is indispensable if we are to prevent the collapse of civilization from becoming inevitable.
There is no more important question that any political regime can put forward than "When does human life begin?" The primary function of government is not to protect illusions, but to protect human beings — all of them.
Donald DeMarco, Ph.D., is a senior fellow of HLI America, an initiative of Human Life International.
He is professor emeritus at St. Jerome’s University in Waterloo, Ontario,
and an adjunct professor at Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell, Connecticut.